Ben O’Keeffe on the MBC front field where he played as a winger for the First XV. Photo: Peter Jones.

From MBC to RWC: Ben excited to get cup nod

Rugby World Cup-bound referee Ben O’Keeffe returned to where it all began for him last week.

The 30-year-old, now based in Wellington, was back in Marlborough to do some work with Tasman referees and found time to drop into his old secondary school, addressing the Marlborough Boys’ College First XV.

Ben’s burgeoning refereeing career began in Marlborough, where he was a student at St Mary’s Primary School and MBC, becoming head boy in 2006 and playing three years for the First XV.

During his final years at secondary school he began refereeing, following in the footsteps of his father, Peter O’Keeffe, one of the province’s top whistleblowers. At Otago University Ben played some social rugby, but soon decided he derived more pleasure from officiating and joined the local association.

His rise through the ranks was meteoric and within five years he was a professional referee, handling provincial games, Super Rugby and finally test matches, having controlled 14 senior internationals to date.

He refereed the final of the 2014 IRB Junior World Championships, but is no doubt the 2019 Rugby World Cup, to be staged in Japan from September 20 to November 2 will be his biggest challenge.

Ben received a call from world referee manager Alain Rolland in late March confirming his place among the 12 referees selected to handle the RWC games.

He said relief was his over-riding emotion after getting the nod.

“I was really happy with my performances in test rugby for the past four years … so I felt I had done everything I could so I thought ‘if I don’t get selected there was really nothing more I could have done, I had no regrets about not performing’.

“I would have been disappointed for sure because I thought, ‘I’m good enough, they have put me in the top group of referees so I should be going’. When it was finally confirmed it was a huge relief, it was awesome.”

Despite being thrust onto world rugby’s biggest stage, Ben says he has no nerves, as yet. “Nerves probably won’t kick in until I get to the tournament, get into the environment. I really don’t know what to expect. It’s not like a one-off test match … I’ve done a junior World Cup, but I expect this to be very different.”

Having refereed two Super Rugby games and one test match in Japan, Ben has had a taste of what the host nation can offer and expects it to be unique.

“Rugby isn’t massive in Japan, but the people that know rugby know it completely inside and out and they love it. You go to a game and the fans will support both teams … they will cheer for the Sunwolves when they score a try and be just as loud when the Highlanders, for example, do something well.

“They love the spectacle, it’s amazing to be there. The World Cup will be very well supported and very well run. Japanese people are very proud of their hosting, so they will try really hard to put on a superb tournament.”

Remaining calm in the middle is a key factor in officiating, at any level, but the pressure obviously ramps up as the stakes grow higher.

Ben has a few processes that help him keep his cool when it appears all around him are losing theirs.

“I do a lot of visualization … reminding myself to make clear and obvious decisions, be calm, control what you can and just trust and enjoy what is in front of you.”

During a match he has developed a series of “health checks”, taken every 15 minutes or so, designed to evaluate his efforts and take an overview of the game whereby he can notice trends and stay focused.

“It keeps me connected to the game the whole time. Rather than just flowing along, I can keep connecting these blocks and you find you have done the game and been in control for the whole 80”.

Asked to offer some advice for young folk who are picking up the whistle in any sport, Ben has some succinct advice.

“Don’t try and be perfect. Just go out there and enjoy it … I have been doing this for more than 11 years and I still make errors, I’m still improving.

“If you try to be perfect you won’t actually get the full benefit out of what you are doing, which is just the enjoyment of being involved in the game.”

Ben, who is also a qualified doctor, specializing in ophthalmology, the treatment and diagnosis of eye disorders, could face the usual refereeing conundrum at the RWC.

With referees unable to officiate in matches involving their home nations, would he rather referee a final without the All Blacks in it or watch from the sidelines as they play the decider in Yokohama?

His answer is emphatic.

“It’s easy. I would rather see the All Blacks make the final and win it, that’s for sure.

I’m just happy to be going the World Cup. I’ll referee as well as I can and hopefully get some high-profile games but I don’t need to do a final, although if New Zealand weren’t in the final, [a chance to officiate] would be fantastic as well.”

Waitohi brave, but fall short

The 2019 E’stel Tasman Trophy rugby final will be fought out between Nelson clubs, Marist and Waimea Old Boys.

The top two qualifiers after round robin play ensured they would meet in the competition decider next week after dispatching their semifinal opponents in emphatic fashion on Saturday.

Top qualifier Waimea Old Boys downed Marlborough club Waitohi 37-22, while Marist, who qualified second, accounted for Wanderers 71-34 at Trafalgar Park.

Waitohi played into a stiff breeze at Jubilee Park and were relatively happy to hold the home side to a 20-3 halftime advantage. WOB led 13-3 for most of the first 40 before bagging a seven-pointed just before the break.

Turning with the wind at their backs the Tohis were confident of getting back into the game, but a Waimea try soon after the break saw them slip to 27-3 behind.

However, the Picton-based crew showed the fortitude that got them to the semis, closing the gap to 27-15 before Waimea pulled away again. A late Waitohi try narrowed the final scoreline but the damage had been done.

Player/coach Jimmy Giles said that, while he was disappointed to lose, he was “proud as punch” of his charges.

“We gutsed it out pretty well in the first half, into the wind, but whenever we made a mistake they would kick us back into our own territory. Then they took their opportunities well.

“At halftime we were still confident of closing the gap but they scored next. We worked hard to get back into it, getting within reach, but they scored again to close it out.

“Overall, Waimea played pretty well but so did we. We didn’t do a lot wrong. We were just starved of the ball at times. We could have folded at 27-3 down but we showed plenty of guts to fight back.”

Giles mentioned backs Saia Tokai, Corey Bovey, Stefan Roguski and Tuli Paea as having good games, along with forwards Rocky Leofo, Taine Cragg-Love, plus front rowers Manu Mataele, Taimi Fangatua and Losi Malimali.

Meanwhile, Nelson’s “Green Machine” ran riot at the park. After dropping their only game of the season to Renwick last week, Marist responded in ruthless fashion, running in 11 tries to send a warning shot over Waimea’s bows.

Marist struck early, fullback Lote Saulekaleka exploding onto a rogue kick, beating three defenders and linking up with speedster Jamie Spowart for the opening try.

Saulekaleka set up the second with another scything run, then first five Sam Briggs burst through the line to give Marist all the early momentum.

The fullback’s sensational start continued as he crashed over himself moments later for a 17-0 lead with just 15 gone.

A fourth soon followed, Briggs dancing through the defence to bag a brace with less than a quarter of the game gone.

Spowart made another scintillating break before linking up with halfback Cleve Barrell who went in for Marist’s fifth, then Barrell burrowed over for his second as Wanderers continued to fall off tackles.

Skipper James Hawkey then bagged their seventh before Wanderers gave their supporters something to cheer about, Fletcher Matthews scurrying down the sideline to put his side on the board before the break.

Marist responded immediately however through hooker Sam Moli who scored their eighth first half try and brought up the half century to cap a completely dominant 40 minutes.

Further tries to lock Hopo Taufa and Hawkey blew the score-line out even further before winger Naki Saumaki pulled one back for Wanderers who surged late.

They were awarded a penalty try before Ducati Morrell-Hopa, Nino Peniamina and Dan Mclauchlan scored consolation tries as defence took a back seat in the last 10.

Appropriately though, Marist had the final say, through a try to prop Teu Sami.

Scores:

Waimea Old Boys 37 Waitohi 22 (Jimmy Giles, Euygene Taylor, Duane Aholelei tries, Corey Bovey 2 con, pen). HT: 27-3.

Marist 71 (Sam Briggs 2, Cleve Barrell 2, James Hawkey 2, Sam Moli, Jamie Spowart, Lote Saulekaleka, Hopo Taufa, Teu Sami tries, Hawkey 8 con) Wanderers 34 (Fletcher Matthews, Naki Saumaki, Ducati Morrell-Hopa, Nino Peniamina, penalty try, Mclauchlan tries, Matthews 2 con).

Next week

The Marlborough sub union competition begins on Saturday, with points earned in the Tasman Trophy section of the season being carried forward.

Waitohi lead the way with 30 points, followed by East Coast on 25, Central 24, Renwick 11 and Moutere 8.

Four of the five teams will contest the sub-union semis on July 13, with Waitohi already assured of a place in the play-offs.

On Saturday, Central play Moutere at Lansdowne Park and Renwick meet Waitohi at Renwick. Both games kick off at 3pm. East Coast have a bye.

Nelson College too strong for MBC rugby rivals

Nelson College claimed bragging rights over its regional rugby rivals, dispatching Marlborough Boys’ College First XV 48-14 in Nelson on Thursday.

In wet, slippery conditions, Nelson ran in seven tries to dominate the match, which doubled as a traditional school exchange and UC championship fixture.

Fergus Hughes led Nelson College in the absence of regular skipper Anton Segner, who was forced to sit out the clash with a knee injury. MBC were also missing their skipper, Ollie Lawson, through injury.

The hosts wouldn’t take long to assert their dominance with Ben Faingaanuku scoring the opener following some slick handling in the wet.

Jontee Taylor was tasked with filling the number seven jersey and made the most of his start with a tireless effort. His line-break led to a second for Nelson halfback Mason.

Nelson out-muscled Marlborough at the breakdown and set-piece as the visitors were forced into crucial errors.

The home side’s superior forward play put hooker Jack McDonald-Hill in for a third before Marlborough finally replied through prop Tino Vakaloa.

Nelson struck back immediately, picking up a bonus point try when lock Tom Thornally proved too strong close to the line.

As the rain intensified, Nelson winger Taya Brown found himself unmarked to stroll over as his side took a commanding 33-7 lead at the break.

Isaiah Malaulau continued the momentum after oranges as the powerful prop barrelled over to put Nelson into the 40s.

There was some second half joy for Marlborough though when fullback Liam Duncan pounced on a kick ahead. But again Nelson struck back straight away, Luca Inch rewarded with a try which sealed an emphatic victory.

MBC head coach Matt MacDougall said Nelson were just too good for his charges on the day. “Their forward pack was outstanding, brutal.

“They outplayed us … their carries were so strong, our boys were making tackles but none of them were dominant, we were just going backwards, sapping the energy out of us. Then they started getting round the corner a lot quicker than us and we started leaking tries.”

“When they scored just after halftime I thought it might blow out to a cricket score but the boys dug deep, kept tackling. Credit to them for sticking it out, but all the damage was done in the first half.”

Prop Vakaloa, who has been putting in big shifts each week, was one of MBC’s best, in a side that may have been feeling the effects of three tough matches in 10 days.

“I would have liked to have played Nelson first [of the three games] that’s for sure, just given the workload the majority of our forwards have carried. But we have no excuses.

“I couldn’t fault the boys’ intent, it was just hammering after hammering.”

Next up for MBC is a meeting with Rangiora HS on Saturday, June 8, in Blenheim.

Scorers: Nelson 48 (Faigaanuku, Lund, McDonald-Hill, Thornally, Brown, Malaulau, Inch tries, Nico Barton pen, 5 con) MBC 14 (Duncan, Vakaloa tries, Murrell 2 cons). HT: 33-7.

Nelson College generally dominated throughout the annual sporting exchange, winning the First XI football clash 3-0, the senior basketball match 73-50, the second XV rugby 50-0 and two of the four junior rugby matches.

MBC took out the first XI hockey 4-1 and the junior football tie 4-3.

Renwick, Central build in confidence 

Central and Renwick will head into the forthcoming Marlborough sub-union championship with renewed confidence after scoring notable victories on Saturday.

Both teams were out of contention for play-off positions in the E’stel Tasman Trophy during Saturday’s final round, but made bold statements against Nelson opposition.

Renwick, winless so far this season, broke their drought in style, tipping over the previously unbeaten Marist side, who sat on top of the standings heading into the weekend.

The Green Machine came up with five tries to shut out Marist 33-17, but it was their work on defense that pleased head coach Glenn Blackmore the most.

“Our win was built around defense. We have leaked on average 34 points a game, but today we tackled well as a team and put them under a lot of pressure, forced turnovers and scored some good tries on the back of that.

“I’ve always felt that [the first win] hasn’t been too far away,” he said, “today we just fixed a few of the things that have been missing in our previous games.

“[Marist] probably felt they didn’t have too much to lose and not much to play for, but we had plenty to play for.”

Renwick went into halftime 19-5 ahead after defending their line for five minutes before the break, a defensive effort Blackmore described as a “game changer”.

Lock Owen Soper had a strong game for the home side, while loosies Atu Taufa and Cody Weir also put in big shifts. In the backs, Kyle Marfell defended and carried well while winger Zac Harrison-Jones picked up two tries and winger Varani Komaisavai also looked sharp.

With the monkey off their backs Renwick have four games remaining to consolidate their play-off position and create some momentum heading into the sub-union semis.

“In a lot of games we have been right in there but unable to finish them off, today we shut the game down and kept on playing rugby, which was probably the key.

“The players have always stayed positive … but [today’s win] is only a start, we have got to keep on moving forward.”

Meanwhile Central underlined their mid-season resurgence by disposing of Stoke 60-15 at Lansdowne Park, forwards and backs combining to run in nine tries through some scintillating inter-passing.

The Blues have often drifted in and out of games, but on Saturday they kept their foot on the throat of a dangerous Stoke outfit.

Quickly-recycled ball at the breakdown was used well by their enterprising backline. First five Mitch Smith served as a distributor for the likes of Nigel Satherley, Jake Cresswell and elusive fullback Timoci Tavatavanawai to cut holes in the Stoke defence.

Six of the Blues tries were scored by forwards, rampaging No 8 Francis Roebeck and replacement frontrower Dusty Foley grabbing a brace apiece, while Jesse Eising and Jesse MacDonald also got on the scoresheet.

Flanker Braden Stewart had another top game, coming out on top of his battle with the highly-rated Anty Burnett, while props Daniel van Waas and Peter Vakaloa operated strongly against a big pack.

Head coach Mark Stewart said his side were coming together well, picking up three consecutive wins after a slow start. “The boys are beginning to build on some things that were probably left a bit late for the Tasman Trophy, but they are really buying into what we are doing now and starting to play … beginning to express themselves.”

The three other Marlborough-based sides in action on Saturday were not so fortunate, Moutere losing 37-24 to Wanderers at Awarua Park, Waitohi going down 50-17 to Kahurangi in Riwaka and East Coast being defeated 40-33 by Waimea Old Boys at Jubilee Park.

The Coasters trailed 26-7 at halftime but ran in four second-half tries to level the scores at 33-33 with 10 minutes to play before Waimea midfielder Alex Coventry intercepted a pass and sprinted away to clinch the win.

Marist’s loss means Waimea Old Boys leapfrog them to the top of the Tasman Trophy standings and earn top spot for the semis, where they will face fourth-qualifier Waitohi. Marist will meet Wanderers in the other semi next Saturday while the other seven teams will have the weekend off.

The sub-union competition begins on Saturday, June 8, the same day as the Tasman Trophy final.

Scores:

Renwick 33 (Zac Harrison-Jones 2, Varani Komaisavai 2, Jan Hasenlechner tries, Michael Dillon 4 con) Marist 17. HT: 19-5

Kahurangi 50 Waitohi 17 (Corey Bovey , Saia Tokai, Euygene Taylor tries, Bovey con).

Wanderers 37 Moutere 24 (Aki Kaumavae 2, Petuli Taufaga, Tupu Sapati tries, Max Freydell 2 con).

Waimea Old Boys 40 East Coast 33 (Sione Veau, Myles Hamilton, Sam Houston, Nemia Ranuku 2 tries, Hamilton 4 con). HT: 26-7 Waimea

Central 60 (Jesse MacDonald, Francis Roebeck 2, Nigel Satherley 2, Dusty Foley 2, Jesse Eising, Timoci Tavatavanawai tries, Mitch Smith 6 con, pen) Stoke 15 (Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Chris Little tries, Declan Smith pen, con). HT: 28-8

Final Tasman Trophy standings (provisional): Waimea Old Boys 43, Marist 42, Wanderers 37, Waitohi 30, Kahurangi 27,  Nelson 26, East Coast 25, Central 24, Stoke 17, Renwick 10,  Moutere 8.

Semifinal draw: Waimea Old Boys v Waitohi; Marist v Wanderers.

 

Women’s rugby

The Moutere women’s team maintained their unbeaten form in the Tasman division one competition on Saturday, accounting for Motueka High School 37-22 in Motueka.

The Magpies tries were scored by Sariah Tautari (2), Pippa Andrews, Hannah Gillespie, Kate Asplet, Ripeka Tepana and Leti Fotumoala. Aiesha Tepuia landed one conversion.

Standings: Moutere 12, Waimea Old Boys 10, Wanderers 6, Motueka HS 5, Awatere 3.

 

Tasman rugby offers alternative to junior rep competitions

The Tasman Rugby Union (TRU) will not select representative teams in the under-15 grade and below this season.

Tasman has previously fielded teams, representing sub-unions Marlborough and Nelson Bays, from under-11 to under-16.

However, there has been a growing move by New Zealand’s provincial rugby unions away from age grade representative competitions for teams under-15 and below. Now the TRU have also decided to do away with those teams and institute a more inclusive programme.

In a press release the TRU said they, “conducted qualitative and quantitative research among its stakeholders – clubs, participants and parents – to determine the most appropriate age to start a representative programme, and what activities or development opportunities be put in place in the event the programme is reduced”.

“It was the position of the TRU board and staff during these discussions that any replacement programme be better than what is currently offered.”

Consequently, the TRU have decided to replace the current age grade representative programme with age grade player development sessions for all participants [in the various age grades].

Called Mako Rugby Player Development Sessions, these will be hosted at central venues allowing all players, coaches and parents to participate on site together.

TRU Community Rugby staff and external resource coaches, including Mako senior players, will be available to support the delivery. All attending players will receive coaching in the “Mako Five” fundamental skill sets as well as position and skill-specific training.

The first sessions will be held on Sunday, July 28 in Blenheim and Nelson and will be attended by Mitre 10 Cup men and Farah Palmer Cup women Mako players.

Marlborough and Nelson Bays representative age group rugby will this season begin at under-16 level. Under-15 players will be eligible to trial for these teams.

The annual under-52kg primary school tournament will still be contested.

TRU CEO Tony Lewis said “We didn’t want to rush into our decision and listening to our stakeholders was key to the process.

“We’re pleased to have got to a point where all participants will benefit from our new programmes, not a selected few. The board is excited that we will now be upskilling all age grade rugby participants.”

Tasman’s call follows the example of North Harbour, who raised eyebrows among rugby traditionalists earlier this year when they announced they were no longer sending teams to the famous Roller Mills tournament.

The Otago and Southland unions also announced last month they were discontinuing junior rep rugby.

 

 

Waitohi, Moutere have differing reason to celebrate

Waitohi and Moutere celebrated E’stel Tasman Trophy wins on Saturday night – but for vastly different reasons.

The Tohis’ 25-22 victory over East Coast at Endeavour Park in Picton earned them a semifinal spot, while the Magpies’ 28-24 triumph over Renwick, at the Renwick Domain, saw them notch their first win points of the season and move off the bottom of the table.

Both Moutere and the Green Machine came into the game without a win after nine rounds, guaranteeing a desperate battle, and that was how it played out.

The scores were locked 10-10 at the halftime break and when the home side scored almost immediately after the resumption the scene looked set for a Renwick celebration.

But ultimately it was the Moutere forward pack that carried the day, taking control of the game in the second spell with their team facing a stiff breeze.

Tries to hard-working forwards Matt McCormick and Jordan Hart allowed the visitors to get their noses in front, then ill-discipline and inaccuracy from the Green Machine allowed Moutere goalkicker Max Freydell to keep them there as the home side mounted increasingly frantic late attacks.

Locks Michael Leger-Kula and Amco Cassidy, plus flanker Luke Scott were at the heart of the Moutere eight’s effort, along with Hart and McCormick.

However it was the return of influential halfback Ben Finau that put air under the Magpies’ wings. The quick-thinking No 9 took control from the outset, ever alert for opportunities to attack and organizing his troops superbly.

Freydell, in the 10 jersey, was also influential, along with impressive midfielder Aki Kaumavae and elusive fullback Petueli Taufaga.

Renwick were well served by loosies Naisa Taufa, who scored two of their four tries, and Cody Weir. Halfback Jayden Lister continues to impress, while midfielder Michael Vaeno, winger Falaula Fotu-Moala and fullback Michael Dillon always looked dangerous on the break.

Moutere head coach Laurie McGlone was a happy man after the game. “I think the club has really come together,” he said, “there has been support from the division two side, which has really helped us in our preparation for this do-or-die battle.

“It’s the first time we have been able to name 22 players for a long time … the feeling among that team is that we are doing it for each other and that showed through today.

“We have been training week-in, week-out since January 8th so to finally get a win is fantastic for the boys.”

Meanwhile, Waitohi maintained their position as the leading Marlborough-based side in the competition, claiming their sixth win of the season. The Tohis ensured themselves a spot in the Trophy play-offs, as closest pursuers Nelson have a bye during next week’s final round.  They will be the sole Marlborough representatives in the semis, with East Coast now too far adrift to challenge for the fourth position.

At halftime on Saturday, a Waitohi win was far from a done deal with the Coasters ahead 12-6.

Waitohi player/coach Jimmy Giles said the match was very even, even suggesting East Coast may have been the better side on the day, the difference being the home side were better at taking their scoring opportunities.

The scoring see-sawed throughout the second half, leaving the visitors ahead 22-18 with three minutes to go before prop Duane Aholelei scored from close range to give his side the lead, and Corey Bovey converted.

Giles said lock Dylan Burns put in a good shift, along with front rowers Manu Mataele, Losi Malimali, Aholelei and hooker Luke Bergman who helped their scrum to dominate their much-vaunted opponents.

Out wide halfback Saia Takai, first five Bovey and fullback Fetuli Paea impressed.

Myles Hamilton scored all East Coast’s points through a try, five penalties and a conversion.

Marist appear to have all but booked top spot for the play-offs, with Waimea Old Boys second and Wanderers third, although the side from Brightwater is well within Waitohi’s sights if they slip up.

Giles said his side, “were not too fussed” who they meet [in the semis].

“Although if we were able to grab that third position it would be a massive feat for the team.”

Next week Renwick play Marist, Moutere meet Wanderers and Central play Stoke, all those games in Marlborough, while Waitohi take on Kahurangi in Riwaka and East Coast play Waimea in Nelson.

Scores:

Moutere 28 (Aki Kaumavae, Matt McCormick, Jordan Hart tries, Max Freydell 3 pen 2 con) Renwick 24 (Jayden Lister, Mike Vaeno, Naisa Taufa 2 tries, Michael Dillon con, Kurt Schollum con). HT: 10-10

Waitohi 25 (Fetuli Paea, Duane Aholelei, Dylan Norgate tries, Corey Bovey 2 con, 2 pen) East Coast 22 (Myles Hamilton try, 5 pen, con). HT 12-6 East Coast.

Nelson 22 Waimea Old Boys 22

Wanderers 21 Kahurangi 19

Marist 42 Stoke 22

Standings (provisional): Marist 42, Waimea Old Boys 37, Wanderers 32, Waitohi 30, Nelson 26*, East Coast 23, Kahurangi 22, Central 19, Stoke 17, Moutere 7, Renwick 5.  * Yet to have a bye.

 

Touch trio beat heat to bag bronze in KL

Beating the heat was tough enough, let alone the world-class opposition, but the trio of Marlborough players at the 2019 Touch World Cup in Kuala Lumpur did both to bring home a bronze medal.

Josh Harrison, plus the husband-and-wife duo of Todd Nicholas and Katie Bradley, were part of the New Zealand Mixed 30 grade team who tipped over England in a third/fourth place play-off to bag bronze.

Playing two games a day in the draining heat, with the mercury hovering around 45 degrees and occasionally rising to 52, was a big ask for those not used to such conditions.

When the temperature topped 45 the games were played in quarters, with more breaks for hydration of both players and referees. When it went over 50, play was halted.

Harrison said the heat was oppressive. “A few went down with heat stroke. It was often so hot you had to force yourself to eat regularly and hydrate.”

Despite battling unfamiliar conditions the Kiwi teams achieved plenty of success.

The NZ Mixed 30 crew were in an 11-team grade and won eight out of their 10 matches. They beat Chile 15-3 and Scotland 13-4 on opening day, downed Singapore 13-0 before losing to eventual champions Australia 11-4. They bounced back to down Ireland 10-6 and England 8-2 before suffering their second defeat, a 7-6 reversal to the Cook Islands. The quickly recovered to tip over France 10-2, South Africa 9-6 and UAE 12-3.

The United Arab Emirates game was notable as it reunited the Marlborough players with former team mate and friend Jeremy Manning, now resident in the UAE.

At the end of the game Manning, once a professional rugby player and Fijian sevens coach, joined with his team to present the NZ side with a plaque celebrating the UAE’s “Year of Tolerance”. As well as providing a memory of the occasion it was designed to show their support for New Zealand in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings and recognize this country’s tolerance for what happened.

“It was a good game and great to play against Jeremy,” explained Harrison. “We had a moment’s silence before the match to remember the Christchurch victims … they had six Kiwis in their team … and we did the haka after that.”

In the semifinals the Cook Islands repeated their win over New Zealand, winning 5-3, before the Kiwis clinched third by downing England 9-3.

Bradley scored 14 tries to top the Mixed 30 team’s scoring, and was named as the side’s female MVP, while Harrison dotted down 11 times and Nicholas three.

Overall the NZ contingent won three golds – the 50s men, the 40s men and the 27 women – while the three open teams, plus the 35 men and women and the 45 men, picked up silver medals.

The Aussies dominated most grades to win the overall World Cup, their cause helped by the recent introduction of the NRL touch competition, with semi-professional touch teams being aligned to NRL franchises.

Among the NZ Mixed 30 team’s opponents was former rugby league star Scott Prince, who played 300 NRL games and represented both Queensland and Australia.

“He’s fairly handy,” said Harrison with a smile, “he certainly gave us a couple of lessons.”

Overall he felt the tournament went without a hitch. “Malaysia was a great place to visit. We had ice baths, physios and masseurs, which we needed … “[the organisers] really looked after us.”

Hard lessons for MBC First XV

The Marlborough Boys’ College First XV rugby team were handed a few hard lessons on Saturday, losing their University of Canterbury championship match against St Andrew’s College 30-24 on the MBC front field.

In the first half the home side leaked four relatively soft first half tries, all through the outside backs, and despite three penalties by Keelan Murrell and a blockbusting try to MBC’s man of the match, prop Monu Moli, they trailed 24-14 at the break.

An early try to Murrell, who also booted his fourth penalty, closed the gap in the second spell, but two penalties to impressive St Andrew’s fullback Ben Innes ensured the visitors went home with four well-earned points.

MBC picked up a bonus point for their efforts, but were left to rue ill-discipline, which left them on the wrong side of a lop-sided penalty count, plus some pretty ineffectual defense, especially in the first 35.

MBC head coach Matt MacDougall labelled his side “slow learners”. “In the last three weeks our penalty count has been around 25 … our poor discipline is letting our opponents piggy back into our end of the field and they just pile on the points. Today we played catch-up rugby most of the game.

“It’s not the style of rugby we want to be playing … always chasing the game, if we sorted our discipline out we could play the game at our pace.”

MBC’s next match is an interschool and UC championship fixture on Tuesday, May 21, against Shirley BHS in Blenheim.

Scores:

St Andrew’s 30 (Harry Waghorn 2, Dominic Clarke, Ben Innes tries, Innes 2 con, 2 pen) MBC (Monu Moli, Keelan Murrell tries, Murrell 4 pen, con). HT 24-14 STAC

Nelson College 43 Roncalli Combined 3

Lincoln Combined 38 Shirley BHS 3

Waimea Combined 17 Mid Canterbury Combined 15

St Bede’s College 33 Rangiora HS 14

Christ’s College 29 St Thomas 16

Standings: St Bede’s 10, St Andrew’s 10, Christ’s 9, Nelson 7, MBC 6, Christchurch BHS 5, Lincoln 5, St Thomas 5, Rangiora 4, Waimea 4, Mid Canterbury 1, Timaru 0, Shirley 0, Roncalli 0.

Trophy play-off prospects begin to diminish

The odds of Marlborough-based rugby teams featuring prominently in the E’stel Tasman Trophy play-offs became longer on Saturday, with four of the five division one teams on this side of the hill being beaten.

Central, who were the only Marlborough team to pick up a win on Saturday, are already out of semifinal contention, while the best-placed sides lost ground to their Nelson-based rivals.

Waitohi, the highest-ranked Marlborough side, went down to the unbeaten Marist outfit, but cling to fourth place with two rounds remaining. With a home match against East Coast on Saturday then a trip to Kahurangi remaining, the Tohis’ fate remains in their own hands.

East Coast are also still in contention, but will have their work cut out, facing the aforementioned clash with Waitohi in Picton, then a trip Nelson for a match-up with the high-flying Waimea Old Boys side.

With four of Saturday’s five games played in the Nelson area the odds were stacked in favour of the teams from over the hill, who duly delivered on four counts.

The only Marlborough success came in Motueka where the Blues followed up their victory over East Coast last weekend by accounting for Kahurangi 27-19.

In the other away games, Wanderers held off East Coast 33-27 in Brightwater, Marist got the better of Waitohi 34-27 at Tahunanui while Stoke thrashed Moutere 67-10 at Greenmeadows.

The only game played in Marlborough was at the Renwick Domain, where the home side had high hopes of ending their winless streak this season. However they came up against a ruthless Nelson combination who pounced on the Green Machine’s many mistakes and came away with a resounding 43-7 victory.

Nelson made a rollicking start, two opportunist tries to young Nelson loosie Conor Rhind in the first 15 minutes setting the tone for the match. Halfback Mitchell Barry missed both conversions but was on hand to convert further first-half tries to lock Sosefo Vaka and winger Blayne Wanoa-Commons as the visitors quickly established a commanding 24-0 advantage at the break.

Although Renwick battled hard, and had their moments of territorial dominance, they invariably ended with a home team mistake as the visitors played with better control and more aggression.

A second try to Vaka, followed by a touchdown to winger Saul Lewis, inflated the scoreline to 36-0 before Renwick finally got a reward for their increasingly frantic efforts. Michael Dillon, one of the home side’s best, scored their consolation try towards the end of the second 40.

However, fittingly, Nelson had the final say as Rhind completed his trick to put an end to a forgettable outing for the Green Machine.

Renwick’s cause was not helped by a bout of pre-match illness which swept through the camp late in the week, ruling key players Kyle Marfell and Josh Holdaway out before the match and affecting loose forward Cody Weir during the game, eventually forcing him from the paddock in the first spell.

Their top performers were the Harrison-Jones brothers, prop Quinn and winger Zac, No 8 Kurt Schollum, in his 50th match, plus midfielders Mike Vaeno and Falaula Fotu Moala.

Scores

Marist 34 (Kasima Sami, Jamie Spowart, Matt Stevenson, Chris Tau’alupe, Joe Taylor tries, James Hawkey con, Taine Robinson pen, 2 con) Waitohi 25 (Euygene Taylor, Taimi Fangatua, Corey Bovey tries, Bovey 2 pen, 2 con). HT: 13-8 Marist

Wanderers 33 East Coast 27 (Sam Westenra, Tiki Onolevu 2, Seymour Lambert, Myles Hamilton tries, Hamilton con). HT: 14-12 Wanderers

Central 27 (Nigel Satherley 2, Francis Roebeck, Braden Stewart tries, Mitch Smith 2 con, pen) Kahurangi 19. HT: 12-5 Kahurangi

Nelson 43 (Conor Rhind 3, Sosefo Vaka 2, Blayne Wanoa-Commons, Saul Lewis tries, Mitchell Barry 4 con) Renwick 7 (Michael Dillon try, con) 7. HT 24-0

Stoke 67 Moutere 10 (Matt McCormick try, Max Freydell con, pen). HT 19-10

Standings (unofficial): Marist 37, Waimea Old Boys 35, Wanderers 28, Waitohi 27, Nelson 24*, East Coast 22, Kahurangi 21, Central 18*, Stoke 17, Renwick 4, Moutere 3. * played nine games, other teams have played eight.

Magpies prevail

Meanwhile the Moutere women’s team continued their unbeaten run in the Tasman competition, downing Marlborough rivals Awatere 50-0 at Awarua Park.

They lead the standings from Waimea who beat Motueka High School 38-12 in the other top level women’s game played on Saturday.

Magpies struggling, but with heads held high

Moutere premier rugby coach Laurie McGlone may be wondering where his side’s first win will come from this season, but he’s adamant it is only a matter of time.

The Magpies have gone 0-7 since the beginning of the 2019 E’stel Tasman Trophy season, sitting bottom of the points table, a rare situation for Marlborough’s most successful rugby club.

Against Waitohi on Saturday they put in another gutsy effort, but ultimately failed to come away with anything to show for it. On their home ground, the Magpies turned in a strong first half effort to lead 8-5 at the break, but leaked 19 second half points to go down 24-8.

Coach McGlone said, “the last couple of weeks have been impressive in terms of our progress. Where we do what we train and maintain the ball we are making progress … it showed last week when we scored 33 points against the top team in the league.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t hold them defensively but our defence stepped up this week, it’s just a shame we let those last couple of tries in that blew the score out.”

He’s not one to make excuses, but McGlone has had some injury disruption to deal with this year. Two players expected to be key performers, halfback Ben Finau and utility forward Mike Curry, have missed most of the season so far through injury, Curry requires more diagnosis on a knee injury while Finau is expected back in the “next couple of weeks”.

“For us it’s more about the team though, not the individuals,” said McGlone. “It’s about us gelling together and working for each other. The feeling in the core group is good, they are really fighting hard for each other.

“[The results] are coming … just not quick enough. We are only halfway [through the season] but we need a better second half, that’s for sure.”

The Tohis opened the scoring at Spring Creek, livewire loosie Taine Cragg-Love on hand to finish off a 50m break by centre Taire Tatauri but a penalty to Max Freydell and a well-taken try to centre Myles Grinter saw the home side in front at oranges.

During a scrappy second half, Waitohi dominated field position and made it pay, tries to Dylan Norgate and Dylan Burns giving them breathing space before first five Corey Bovey, literally, crashed over for a fourth try in the final minute, bouncing off the base of the post before grounding the ball.

Locks Burns and Jack Evans worked hard for Waitohi, while midfielder Stefan Roguski, Bovey and fullback Tuli Paea continually posed a threat with ball in hand.

Moutere’s best were hard-working No 8 Matt McCormick, midfielder Aki Kaumavae and fullback Petueli Taufaga.

With their bonus point win, Waitohi continue to show the way for Marlborough-based sides on points table, consolidating third position.

However East Coast, fourth last week, have lost ground, slipping to sixth after going down 30-10 to Central at Lansdowne Park.

The home side led 17-0 at halftime, taking their chances to score twice, while the Coasters had opportunities but were unable to convert.

The second half was also tightly-fought but Central picked up a much-needed win through better ball control and more accurate finishing.

Loosie Braden Stewart was the Blues’ outstanding performer, a continual menace at the breakdown and strong with the ball in hand. First five Mitch Smith had his kicking boots on, booting three penalties and converting all three tries to ensure his side got maximum benefit for their endeavours. The exciting Timoci Tavatavanawai wore the 15 jersey and, as usual, was a ball of energy, while left wing Simi Volavola continued his strong season.

For East Coast, halfback Nemia Ranuku, who must be on the Tasman Mako selectors’ radar, had a top game, along with No 8 Shohei Nonaka.

Scores

Waitohi 24 (Taine Cragg-Love, Dylan Norgate, Dylan Burns, Corey Bovey tries, Bovey 2 con) Moutere 8 (Myles Grinter try, Max Freydell pen). HT 8-5 Moutere.

Central 30 (Peter Vakaloa, Braden Stewart, Jake Cresswell tries, Mitch Smith 3 con, 3 pen) East Coast 10 (Heath Forsyth, Paul Hickman tries). HT: 17-0

Other scores:

Marist 26 Waimea Old Boys 26

Wanderers 32 Stoke 30

Nelson 26 Kahurangi 22

Standings (unofficial): Waimea Old Boys 35, Marist 32, Waitohi 26, Wanderers 23, Kahurangi 21, East Coast 20, Nelson 19, Central 14, Stoke 12, Renwick 4, Moutere 3.

In the Tasman Trophy women’s competition Moutere backed up their opening day victory over Wanderers with an away win over Waimea Old Boys in Nelson. The defending-champion Magpies prevailed 40-24 to forge an early advantage on the points table. Awatere, the other Marlborough side involved, had a bye.

Standings: Moutere 6, Waimea OB 4, Motueka 3, Wanderers 2, Awatere 1.